Westminster School’s interim principal David Drake in 1961.

It goes without saying that things have changed. Boys and girls now go to school in the same buildings, for one thing. The girls don’t wear hoop skirts for May Day, for another. And the Hut is no longer the hub of campus social life.

So members of The Westminster School’s class of 1961 will have much to compare notes about this month when they gather to remember their high school a half century ago. The private school was young then, just 10 years from its founding. The students lived and studied in a place different from the one they return to April 29 and 30.

The Hut is gone, for instance. The Hut was just that, a World War II-surplus Quonset hut that the school turned into a snack bar. Westminster graduates Gene Pearce, Lynn Cochran and Eleanor Beckman, who are organizing the Class of 1961’s reunion, remember that it stood between the two buildings that housed the boys and girls schools and served as the students’ meeting place.

“It was your only point of visitation,” Cochran recalled. “It was like a little drug store with a counter, chairs.”

Students who had good grades and who behaved were rewarded with permission to visit the Hut. They could buy Cokes there, and sit and chat. The 1961 Lynx, the school’s yearbook, called The Hut “the most popular spot on campus.”

Nearly 90 people are expected to gather for the reunion. That includes some spouses of classmates, of course. The class contained about 126 members, according to a quick count of yearbook headshots by Pearce. Seventeen have died, Beckman said. Others moved away and haven’t been heard from. But many went on to accomplish much in the years since their graduation.

Graduates have scattered from New York to California to Seattle and overseas. Seven or eight earned Ph.D.s, the reunion committee said. Some have headed schools or steered volunteer groups. One classmate was a champion bridge player. Another is flying in for the reunion in an airplane he built himself, they said.

Class members have prospered in Atlanta, too. Westminster’s Class of ’61 included developer Steve Selig, lawyer Griffin Bell Jr. and others who went on to become prominent lawyers or business owners.

Westminster School’s interim principal David Drake in 2011.

The reunion this year officially will be the last for the Class of ’61, the organizers said. Westminster doesn’t plan reunions for individual classes after 50 years, they said, but instead holds multi-year gatherings that combine several classes. That makes the 50th something special, they said.

They decided they needed a special class gift to mark the occasion, so they created a scholarship to honor David Drake, a classmate who taught at Westminster for 43 years and this year served as interim high school principal. “He taught our children,” Beckman said. “He says he won’t be here to teach our grandchildren.”

“His father taught me,” Pearce said.

Drake’s dad helped coach the basketball team, too. Pearce and the younger Drake both played on the team. They did well, racking up 20 wins to a single loss during the season and were “acclaimed the best in school history,” according to the Lynx. But they lost in the playoffs to a team they had beaten earlier during the regular season, Pearce said. “The coach made the comment that this was the only team he knew that had an automatic choke,” Pearce said.

Yet maybe some pains can ease a bit with time. This month, Pearce and his classmates will gather for one last big fling to recount days when their high school basketball team dominated, when they sipped Cokes at the Hut and when Bo Diddley — yes, the Bo Diddley — played at their school dance.

“Isn’t that what life’s all about — friendship?” Cochran asked.

Know interesting people or places around our community? Let Joe Earle know about them at joeearle@reporternewspapers.net.

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Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.